SKOWHEGAN — It wasn’t heroin that killed 34-year-old Valerie Tieman in 2016, as her husband, Luc, claims; it was two shots from a semi-automatic pistol found by police in Luc Tieman’s parents’ home in Fairfield.

That assertion was part of opening statements by Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin on Monday, the first day of Luc Tieman’s murder trial.

Valerie Tieman

“That’s a very fine story, but it’s only a story,” Tieman’s defense attorney, Stephen Smith, told the jury of eight men and six women, including two alternates. “Each story is like a brick in a brick wall — you will find him not guilty” when the wall is complete.

Tieman, 34, faces 25 years to life in prison if he is found guilty of murder.

A disabled U.S. Army veteran who reportedly suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, Tieman has pleaded not guilty to the charge of intentional or knowing murder in the death of his wife, Valerie Tieman.

Valerie Tieman’s body was discovered by state police detectives and game wardens on Sept. 20, 2016, wrapped in a blanket with a bag of potato chips, a bottle of perfume and a note that reportedly had an “apologetic tone,” according to the autopsy report from the state medical examiner’s office. She had been shot twice, once in the head and once in the neck. The report says opiates were found in Valerie’s blood, but that she died of the two gunshot wounds and was found buried in Luc Tieman’s parents’ backyard off Norridgewock Road in Fairfield.

The murder is alleged to have taken place Aug. 25 — 15 days before her parents reported her missing and five days before Tieman claimed his wife disappeared Aug. 30 from the Walmart parking lot in Skowhegan.

Luc Tieman initially told police Valerie had disappeared from his pickup truck outside Walmart, but later said she died of a drug overdose.

Robbin, who is assisting Assistant Attorney General Leanne Zainea with the prosecution, called Valerie Tieman’s parents, Sarajean and Allen Harmon, to the stand Monday morning, piecing together details leading to the discovery of Valerie’s body about 400 feet behind Luc Tieman’s parents’ home.

The couple, who live in South Carolina, had become concerned when they had not heard from Valerie for about 10 days.

Sarajean Harmon told the jury that Valerie moved to Maine in June 2014 after she married Luc. The Tiemans visited in June and July 2016 for a month, and that was the last time Sarajean Harmon saw her daughter. They spoke one last time on the mother’s birthday, Aug. 10, 2016.

“She told me she loved me and wished me a happy birthday,” Sarajean said.

She tried texting her daughter in the days that followed but got no reply, Sarajean testified, but there were disturbing notes on Luc’s Facebook page — a possible relationship with another woman whom he was “thinking about loving.”

Fairfield police Sgt. Matthew Bard had told state police investigators about a call to police from Valerie’s parents, who told them that Luc Tieman had called them on Sept. 8, 2016, saying that Valerie had left him and that he had not heard from her in some time, the Morning Sentinel reported. Valerie was reported missing the following day, Sept. 9, 2016, by her parents, according to Monday’s testimony.

Luc Tieman had not reported her missing.

Earlier in the day Monday, Justice Robert Mullen had denied a motion advanced by defense attorney Stephen Smith to exclude use of the expression “rebound girl” to describe the woman Luc Tieman was staying with in Norridgewock at the time Valerie Tieman was reported missing, arguing that the words were spoken casually and could be demeaning to women.

Smith said Justice Robert Mullen also had denied his motion to use an alternate suspect theory as part of Tieman’s defense.

Tieman, in text messages to Allen Harmon in mid-September, according to Monday’s testimony, stuck to the Walmart story — perhaps knowing that his wife already had been dead for going on two weeks.

In text exchanges, Valerie’s father and Luc Tieman both spoke of their trust in God and their love of Valerie.

Investigators with the Maine State Police and Maine Warden’s Service look for evidence in the death of Valerie Tieman, whose body was found Sept. 20, 2016, in the woods behind 628 Norridgewock Road in Fairfield. Staff file photo by Michael G. Seamans

“Husbands love their wives like Christ loves the church,” Luc Tieman texted to Allen Harmon in the days leading up to her being reported missing to Fairfield police.

There was talk of drug use on Valerie’s part, the possibility of there being another man in her life and also a question of whether Luc Tieman already had been seeing another woman.

“We need some answers,” Harmon texted, telling Zainea under direct examination in court Monday that his concern that Luc Tieman was living with another woman was upsetting because “he was supposed to be married to our daughter.”

Smith did not cross-examine the Harmons, who maintained a cheerful appearance during questioning by the state prosecutor.

The state also called three Fairfield police officers to the stand Monday, building the time line of the missing person report filed Sept. 12, 2016, and the investigation, which later was turned over to the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit.

In extended questioning of Maine State Police Detective Hugh Landry on Monday afternoon in court, Robbin detailed police suspicion that Valerie Tieman had been murdered.

Robbin played taped conversations between state police and Luc Tieman. The detective could be heard saying that there were two options in the investigation — either Valerie was somewhere and didn’t want to be found, or that “she’s dead somewhere — either you killed her or suicide.”

“Did you do anything to harm Valerie?” the detective asks.

“No,” Luc Tieman says. “I would never do that.”

Tieman maintained his story about Valerie leaving the Walmart parking lot.

“I’ve been looking for her every day,” he told police. “Are there any developments?”

Robbin pressed Landry on the stand, playing audio tapes and reading texts of conversations between him and Luc Tieman from Sept. 13 to Sept. 19, a day before Maine State Police and the Maine Warden Service executed a search warrant at 628 Norridgewock Road in Fairfield, where Luc Tieman’s parents lived, and found Valerie Tieman’s body partially buried in a wooded area behind the house.

Tieman was arrested the next day and charged with intentional or knowing murder.

The prosecution also brought state police Trooper David Powser to the stand Monday. The trooper had been called to Welch Street on Sept. 18, 2016, in Norridgewock, close to an apartment where Luc Tieman had been staying with his “rebound girl.”

Powser testified that a local man had found Valerie Tieman’s driver’s license laying face down in some grass in a parking lot off Main Street.

The trial is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

 

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